Skiing is always a good option for Spring Break. As a family we have skied a couple of times, both in North Carolina and Colorado, so our children know the basics and they do enjoy it. This year we decided to take a trip to Vail, Colorado. Why did we choose Vail? The main reason is I had some Marriott points so we chose to stay at the Vail Marriot Mountain Resort right in Lions Head Village which is close to the Eagle Bahn Chair Lift.
When we go skiing in Colorado, we typically fly into Denver. Rather than taking a shuttle to the ski resorts we prefer renting a car. It basically costs the same and I enjoy the flexibility. We normally stay in Denver the first night and then drive up to the ski resorts the next day, which we did this year. It does help acclimate to the altitude rather than going straight to the ski resorts. To get to Denver, we flew United as they have direct flights from Tampa to Denver. We normally fly Delta, but thought we would fly United to avoid an extra stop. It wasn’t a horrible flight, but my preference is Delta. It felt like the legroom was tighter on the United planes as opposed to others.
It took us just over 2 hours to get from Denver to Vail. We went up on a Saturday just before lunch so the traffic wasn’t bad. If you leave earlier on a Saturday you may run into weekend ski traffic which can be painful. The drive is fairly simple as it is interstate most of the way.
The Vail Marriott Mountain Resort is located in Lions Head Village which is on the West side of Vail. The hotel itself is very nice but fairly basic. There is a lounge/bar down stairs in the lobby and they had live music every night for Happy Hour while we were there. The rooms were a bit on the small side, especially for skiing with all the extra gear. The pool/hot tub were heated but they are both in need a face lift. The pool was showing signs of deterioration. One of the biggest perks we liked about the Marriott was the complimentary ski valet. The service includes taking your skis and poles to and from the lift which was a big help, especially when you are traveling with children. There is a ski shop in the hotel where you can rent skis, however we ended up renting our ski gear from Christy Sports in West Vail. This saved us about $200 compared to the shop in the Marriott. Since we had our own vehicle it wasn’t too big of deal to pick up and drop off the ski gear.
Everything is in walking distance around the Marriott so once we got our ski gear, we didn’t use the car much after that until we had to leave. There are plenty of places to eat in Vail. Some of the places we tried were:
Blue Moose Pizza – This place can get packed so expect a wait. We ended up getting our pizza “to go” in order to avoid the long wait. The pizza was actually very good.
Tavern on the Square – We ate lunch here on our first day. We sat outside on the patio which over looks the ski runs. The food was excellent, but like most places in Vail, over priced.
Garfinkel’s – This was one of my favorite places. Good old standard “bar and grill” with a view of the ski runs. We ate here a couple of times.
The Little Diner – You must try this place for breakfast. As the name states it is small, so expect a bit of a wait to get a seat.
El Sabor – We ate diner at El Sabor which is Mexican food. The food was excellent and actually well priced. They made a great margarita.
We skied four days in Vail so we purchased four-day passes for my wife and me. You get a break if you buy multi-day passes and a bigger break if you buy online 24 hours in advance. We put our kids in ski school the first day and the ski school fee includes lift tickets. So if you are planning to put your kids in ski school, don’t buy lift tickets separately as it was cheaper to have the ski school include the passes. Our children really enjoyed the ski school but they did not want to do more than one day. That was fine by us as it gave us more time to ski as a family.
One thing that struck me about Vail was the size. It is a huge ski resort with a lot of different ranges and options. Also, a lot of local Colorado folks avoid Vail due to the crowds and wait times for the lifts. We were there during a busy week and there were definitely waits at the base of the mountain, but overall it wasn’t too bad. We were able to ski a majority of the mountain during our 4 days there. It definitely helped that the weather was perfect during our visit. Clear skies every day and fairly warm for skiing.
The Vail pass includes other resorts, so we took advantage and skied Beaver Creek on one of our days. There was definitely more wide-open runs at Beaver which our kids loved. I would say Beaver Creek is a little more kid/family friendly than Vail. I would definitely return to Beaver Creek, it is a beautiful resort.
Overall we all enjoyed our trip to Vail. As I mentioned before, we got lucky with the weather. It was unusually warm this year, but due to the high snow pack, there was plenty of snow during our visit. It did get soft at the lower part of the mountain during the afternoon, but we stayed close to the top most of the time anyway. As much as I enjoyed Vail, I will most likely not return any time soon. It is pricey and we probably would not have chosen Vail if it wasn’t for us using Marriott points for lodging. There are many other ski resorts in Colorado worth visiting (Copper, Steamboat, Breckenridge, etc) that I would choose over Vail next time.